‘On the Farm’ being the title of my weekly column as it would suggest usually focuses on all things farming related but the nature of the business is that it is inextricably linked to society at large because we are no longer hunters and gatherers so as a society we have abdicated food production to a small few, the farmer.
I came across a story during the week about an issue that is not only affecting our farmers’ ability to feed society but also rural society’s viability to live in the area they were born and raised and in the same houses they have lived in all their lives.
A community in Co. Roscommon has for many years been devastated by flooding affecting their businesses, farmland and homes, Roscommon County Council were due to install an overflow pipe to alleviate the issue and safeguard these communities. However a group going by the name “Friends of the Irish Environment” have secured a high court order halting the works.
On media over the past few days representatives of this organisation have repeatedly said these flood alleviation works “could worsen the biodiversity crisis”. There is no evidence of this considering even this week in late summer much of these farmlands are still submerged including hedgerows which make it an uninhabitable wasteland for their respective ecosystems. All this hypocrisy about the “biodiversity crisis” is without speaking of the Humanitarian crisis being wreaked upon the inhabitants of these farms and homes. Once again the radicals are dictating the direction but costing people their livelihoods and their homes in the process.
This sad saga that is playing out in Roscommon is emblematic of what is happening in other areas where groups like FIE can throw out some weak argument under the banner of biodiversity and can make people’s lives a daily drudgery. We’re told that society is becoming more inclusive and empathetic but only for certain groups, unfortunately rural dwellers, farmers and the custodians of our countryside are being more and more marginalised. So I now ask myself, is it nature for man or man for nature.
In our own county and without going outside my own area it is obvious to me that without effective drainage systems we would not have Shannon Airport and industrial estates, nor would much of the areas adjoining the river Shannon be inhabitable. The Office of Public Works provides a great service in keeping thousands of acres safe from flooding along by our rivers. These farmlands serve two major functions side by side, highly productive farming owing to their supreme natural fertility as well as a flourishing ecosystem. Without the drainage system that is in place and continually maintained, there would be no habitats for birds to nest nor bees to feed on.
The plight of the flooded farmland in Roscommon today could be the plight of the flooded business or home in Clare tomorrow. We cannot let fringe groups dictate the course and quality of life for rural dwellers whether that be in the countryside or small rural towns.